Having recently returned to the working world following a year of maternity leave I have been delving into the huge divorce process changes that have taken place in family law. In particular, the changes to divorce law that represent the biggest reform in half a century. The changes aim to reduce the impact that conflict and allegations of blame can have on families and are wholeheartedly welcomed.
The new divorce process allows for postal paper applications or online applications. The online process is straightforward and easy to use. This will certainly assist people in completing the process themselves and ensuring that costs are kept to a minimum.
Whilst it is certainly positive that the divorce process has been simplified, a concern that springs to mind is, what happens with the parties’ finances?
The Final Order is the last step in the divorce process. It confirms that you are no longer legally married. Yet, importantly, the Final Order does not deal with the financial claims that each spouse has. When a marriage comes to an end each party has certain financial claims against the other party in relation to their property, assets, income and pensions. Each party has the ability to ask the court to decide how they should divide up their finances and they can also seek ongoing income support through the payment of maintenance.
These claims do not end because a divorce has been finalised. In order to resolve both parties’ financial claims it is necessary to have a consent order approved by the court. A consent order will make any financial agreement between the parties legally binding and will also end each party’s financial claims. This will provide both parties with protection from any future claims from their former spouse.
With the new process, it is far easier to apply to make the Conditional Order Final. This means that the process could be finalised before financial matters have been resolved. Often this is something that we advise against. This is because you may lose entitlement to certain benefits upon a spouse’s death if you are no longer legally married and you do not have a consent order detailing any financial agreement. There are applications that can be made to delay the Final Order if financial matters are not resolved.
Although the process has been simplified, we would encourage you to obtain early legal advice to ensure you understand the impact this may have on your financial position. Our specialist family team can assist and guide you through the process, to find out more information click here or alternatively contact Nicola Weeks.